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Drunk driving punishment, will it be okay as it is?

 

 Drunk driving has been pointed out as a serious social problem from a long time ago to the present. Although the social problem of drunk driving has existed for a long time, the dominant opinion is that the solution to this problem is still not well done. According to a poll on drunk driving conducted in August 2023 in a public opinion poll of Korea Research, people think that the number of drunk drivers and drunk driving traffic accidents has increased compared to a year ago. In addition, according to a poll conducted by the same agency, the opinion that drunk driving will be prevented through stronger punishment than now is dominant. As such, it can be seen that many people currently believe that the drunk driving problem has not yet been resolved, and that strengthening the degree of punishment will be an effective way. So, I would like to examine the degree of punishment for drunk driving and what attitude we should take to solve the problem, focusing on actual cases related to drunk driving. 

 

What is “Drunk Driving”?

 “Drunk driving” operating and a motorized bicycle while drunk. A driver should not drive a motor vehicle in a state of being drunk. Violation of this will result in punishment based on blood alcohol concentration. Basically, the criterion for “drunk state”, in which driving is prohibited, is when the driver's blood alcohol concentration is 0.03% or more. Although there are some differences from person to person, the 0.03% blood alcohol concentration is usually measured when drinking a glass of soju or beer and getting drunk after about an hour. The driver's license will be revoked in the following three cases. The first case is that the driver kills or injuries someone else by causing while his or her blood alcohol concentration is 0.03% or more, which is the standard of “drunk state”. The second case is a case of driving while the blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more. The last case is that a person drives while the blood alcohol concentration is 0.03% or more after two or more previous offences, or someone who denies complying with the measurement of a drunk state, drives while drunk again. In addition, if you drive beyond the standard of drunkenness (blood alcohol concentration not less than 0.03% but less than 0.08%), your driver's license will be suspended within one year and you will be imposed 100 penalty points. It is said that a person who drives a car, etc. while drunk will be punished based on the following table.

 

Drunk Driving damage, how serious is it?

 According to the Traffic Accident Statistical Analysis (Police DB), the number of drunk driving traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths between 2000 and 2005 surveyed by the Road Traffic Authority is as follows.

Data from TAAS

 According to the statistics of the Road Traffic Authority's traffic accident analysis system, the number of drunk driving accidents, deaths, and injuries from 2018 to 2022 is as follows.

Image from TAAS

 There were 19,381 accidents caused by drunk driving in 2018, 15,708 in 2019, 17,247 in 2020, 14,894 in 2021, and 15,059 in 2022. There were 346 deaths from drunk driving in 2018, 295 in 2019, 287 in 2020, 206 in 2021, and 214 in 2022. There were 32,952 injuries caused by drunk driving in 2018, 25,961 in 2019, 28,063 in 2020, 23,653 in 2021, and 24,261 in 2022. Looking at the overall trend, it can be seen that the number of drunk driving accidents dropped sharply from 2018 to 2019, increased slightly from 2019 to 2020, and then decreased again the following year.

 The recent trend of increase or decrease in drunk driving by referring to the current status of drunk driving traffic accidents by the National Police Agency is as follows. First of all, from 2020 to 2021, when COVID-19 was prevalent, both the number of drunk driving detection and the number of accidents showed a decreasing trend. However, this decline also seems to disappear from 2022, when the COVID-19 situation began to ease relatively, and the number of drunk driving detection and accidents begins to increase again. Based on this, it can be seen that the COVID-19 situation also affects the number of drunk driving detection and accidents. If so, let's take a look at the detailed damage cases in addition to the overall damage statistics related to these traffic accidents.

 At around 2 p.m. on April 8, 2023, a former public official A was driving at a speed of more than 42 kilometers in a school zone while intoxicated near Seo-gu, Daejeon, and struck four children walking on the sidewalk. This car accident resulted in killing one child and injuring the other three children. There is a speed limit of 30 km/h in the school zone at that time. The court said that Mr. A, who lives near the accident site, was drunk and unable to drive normally in a child protection area, even though he was fully aware of the place where children could frequently walk. He also said that he was so drunk that he wasn’t aware of the accident, such as staying inside the vehicle and being forced out of the vehicle by citizens even in the process of taking protective measures immediately after the accident. Another case of drunk driving was an accident on a road in Osan, Gyeonggi-do, on June 27, 2023. Around 1 p.m., a drunk driver, at the age of 20s, ran into pedestrians while ignoring a signal on a road in Osan, Gyeonggi-do. A woman in her 70s was killed and five pedestrians were injured in that accident. In addition, in April 2023, a woman in her 20s died in a hit-and-run accident by a drunk driving vehicle on her way to work in Ulsan. In this regard, the driver who caused the accident stated that he did not know he had hit a person in the first police investigation, but CCTV showed him returning to the scene immediately after fleeing and examining the scene of the accident. Drunk driving, which causes such large casualties, is occurring everywhere.

 

Drunk driving punishment, is it okay as it is?

 What is the current level of punishment for drunk driving in Korea? First of all, let's look at the punishment for traffic accidents caused by drunk driving mentioned above. A former public official who caused a drunk driving death in a school zone in Seo-gu, Daejeon, was finally sentenced to 12 years in prison. In addition, the prosecution demanded a 20-year prison sentence for a drunk driver in Ulsan who killed a woman in her 20s on her way to work, but the court recently sentenced her to 10 years in prison in the first trial. The court said that while severe punishment was inevitable for the driver, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison considering that the drunk driver was a first-time offender and paid a 20 million won fine. In response, the victim's bereaved family said, “Why is he sentenced to only ten years when my innocent sister was killed in this manner? I don't know if this is the country for perpetrators or victims.” In addition, in March 2023, a driver with a history of drunk driving died of drunk driving twice in Daegu, but he was sentenced to three years in prison in the first trial, causing controversy.

 Unlike Korea's punishment about drunk driving which is kind of a slap on the wrist, China can even execute the death penalty in the event of a drunk driving accident. This is because if caught for "drunk driving," it will be handed over to a criminal trial, and there is no limit to the maximum sentence that can be sentenced by judgment. In addition, China has stricter punishment regulations for drunk driving by drivers of commercial vehicles. One special characteristic of Brazil’s punishment about drunk driving is to apply murder charges to drunk traffic accidents. It is known that if the blood alcohol concentration is 0.01%, the license is suspended for one year in addition to the 500,000 won fine, and if it exceeds 0.06%, the driver is imprisoned. Traffic accidents caused by drunk driving are strongly punished by applying the “crime of murder” regardless of their severity in Brazil. Third, in Thailand, the punishment of drunk driving is to do community service in the morgue. Thailand is a country with a very high number of simple traffic accidents and also traffic accidents caused by drunk driving. Between January and October 2019, Thailand reported that there were 13,692 deaths and 757,010 injuries from traffic accidents. Considering that the number of deaths from traffic accidents in Korea in 2019 was 3,349, it can be seen that, even considering the difference in population between Korea and Thailand, the number of victims from traffic accidents in Thailand is very high. In addition to such a serious traffic accident problem, Thailand has a high rate of accidents caused by drunk driving. In order to solve this traffic accident problem, Thailand has put forward “community service in the morgue” as a solution. This is not a simple community service in the morgue, but rather a service in the morgue where the body of the accident victim is placed to drink drivers. It seems that they are trying to prevent traffic accidents caused by drunk driving by facing death caused by themselves in this way. Japan and Malaysia have a 'joint responsibility for drunk driving'. In particular, Japan says that if the blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.03%, which is the standard for punishment for drunk driving, not only drunk drivers but also those who recommend alcohol to drunk drivers, those who provide alcohol, and those who attend drinking parties are included in the punishment. In addition, in Turkey, drunk drivers are punished in a relatively unusual way. In Turkey, drunk drivers are punished by “detaining after 30km walk home”. Turkey has a standard of 0.05% blood alcohol concentration, and if it exceeds this level, it is said that drunk drivers are taken to the outskirts, about 30 kilometers far from the city center, and then must do a “walking” home punishment. In the process of walking, to prevent drunk drivers from returning home by using other transportation, the police are accompanied. And when they arrive home, they are detained again and subject to legal punishment.

 

Ways to Solve Drunk Driving Problems

 What are the ways to solve this drunk driving problem? First of all, there is “reinforcement of punishment”, which is presented as the most basic and fundamental alternative. As mentioned earlier, there are many opinions that the punishment is too weak in relation to drunk driving, and that the sentence needs to be strengthened. The strengthening of the sentence is in line with the improvement of awareness of drunk driving. This is because the stronger the sentence, the greater the awareness of drunk driving. Since there is a perception that the sentence is usually determined by the severity of the crime, if the punishment for drunk driving is weak, there is a high possibility that the perception of drunk driving will be something like, "There is no need to worry even though I commit drunk driving, since its punishment is very weak.” The increase in this kind of awareness will eventually lead to an increase in the number of drunk driving. Therefore, it seems necessary to improve awareness of drunk driving by strengthening punishment for drunk driving and strengthening intensive crackdowns at the national level. In addition, celebrities who return to broadcasting after committing drunk driving offenses are constantly appearing in Korea. The difference between the past and the present is that the public's view of these celebrities has become much colder now than in the past. In order to further improve the public's increasingly changing perception of drunk driving and to solve related problems, it is also necessary to actively conduct campaigns at the national level.

Case of Public Service Image to Prevent Drunk Driving

 In addition to simply strengthening the sentence, measures such as a drunk driving start lock are also proposed. A drunk driving start lock is a device that measures the concentration of alcohol in the blood before the driver starts the vehicle and allows the driver to start the vehicle only when it is determined that he or she has not drunk alcohol. A reporter visited SENTECH KOREA in Paju, Gyeonggi-do, and experienced a drunk driving start lock. When the reporter fully breathes in the drunk driving start lock for a few seconds, the phrase "pass" pops up and the engine turns when the start button is pressed. However, when the reporter tries again after drinking, there is a warning sound, and the vehicle did not start even when the start button is pressed. Park Geun-hyung, executive director, met at the headquarters in Paju, Gyeonggi-do, said that the device was installed in his car. He said that he drank two and a half bottles of soju and fell asleep around 2:30 a.m., and his car didn't start when he woke up at 7:30 a.m. to go to work. In addition, the device is said to require a random re-measurement even after the start in order to prevent a "proxy measurement" in which another person who has not drunk breathes in on behalf of the person who has drunk. In addition, it is said that it is hard to cheat a breathalyzer with an air conditioner because it can distinguish whether it is a person's exhalation or not. As there is an opinion that such a "drinking driving start lock" will be effective in preventing drunk driving, there is also a discussion on the mandatory lock. In addition to those solutions, attaching special license plates to identify drunk drivers and disclosing personal information of habitual drunk drivers are being discussed as ways to prevent drunk driving.

 In fact, it is said that, in developed countries abroad, there is a strong view that the death or injury of a person due to drunk driving is a "murder" caused by carelessness. However, in Korea, damage caused by drunk driving tends to be regarded simply as a “traffic accident caused by negligence”. Why is this kind of social atmosphere so common in Korea? Of course, we cannot affirm that there is one obvious reason about this situation. But, it’s pretty sure that relatively light punishment for drunk driving affect this general social perspective about drunk driving. The drunk driving itself and the damage because of it is not far from our own daily lives. None of us can be sure that we will never, ever, ever commit drunk driving for life or be harmed by it. Therefore, it seems necessary to identify various facts and cases related to drunk driving and to be highly alert to them.

 

김서연  seoyon1229@naver.com

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